I finally figured out how to make 'steak-house-worthy' sirloin steak at home! Here is what you need to know to cook Sirloin Steak on the grill.
With the price of beef sky high at this time of high food inflation I was drawn to an attractive Top Sirloin, Cap on (which means fat layer is attached) Roast. It looks so enticing but - I have been fooled before! So I approached with caution but the significantly better price per pound kept me looking at it. I became determined to figure this out. After all - The Keg can do it so it must be possible.
Side note: I questioned years ago if restaurants have access to better quality beef than our supermarkets. The answer is technically no but there are things to consider. The best grade of beef is AAA in Canada and Prime in the US. Better restaurants and butchers tend to have this quality level and they tend to buy up the bulk of what is available. In addition, quality steakhouses may do their own additional dry aging some 30 days to 6 months. They also know how to cook the cuts to perfection. This is typically at far higher heat than we use at home for shorter periods.
But back to our Sirloin. You do need to start with a good grade of Sirloin for best results. I had access to Top Sirloin and I wanted the rim of fat (so Cap On). Bottom Sirloin is closer to the flank and will give you a slightly more tender starting point, if you can find it.
And you need to start a day ahead of when you plan to serve it for best results, since an overnight marinade is ideal.
After that you have several options to tenderize for the grill:
Meat Mallet: You will want to start with 1 ½" to 2" steaks since the pounding with the mallet will flatten the meat and expand it a bit. Lay your steak between 2 layers of plastic wrap to stop any juices from flying around your kitchen. With a good quality meat mallet (Or the sharp end of the round of a rolling pin or edge of a can, in a pinch) whack the steak firmly and randomly over the surface. Flip and repeat on the other side.) This will break down tough fibers. It will also help the meat absorb more marinade, which you are going to want to do next.
Marinate: Marinating is an essential step here since it is among the most effective ways to tenderize a sirloin steak. This is also your opportunity to introduce great flavour. A marinade consists of a 4 mandatory components: Salt, Acid, Seasoning, Fat. Sugar is an optional component along with other seasoning agents such as garlic, herbs etc.
Salt is usually a coarse salt since you don't really want to infuse your meat with salt at this point.
Acid can be any kind of vinegar, lemon or other acidic juice or wine.
Seasoning can be pepper, garlic powder, herbs etc.
Fat is usually olive oil or vegetable oil.
Additional flavour agents can be soy sauce, sugar, hoisin, mustard or anything that complements your basic marinade flavours.
The ratio used i can be 2 or 3 parts oil to 1 parts acid.
A marinade needs at least 4 hours to really do anything noticeable. Overnight is even better. The further past 24 hours the chances increase of the meat texture becoming mushy.
Enzymes: There are commercial enzyme tenderizers like Accent or McCormick Meat Tenderizer that you sprinkle on. The work quickly on the outer surface but do not penetrate very deeply so this works best for thinner steaks. Sprinkle on both sides of the steak and allow it to sit at room temperature 20-30 minutes. Wipe the steak down and sear immediately. You may considering brushing sides with a bit of olive oil if you have a thin steak.
Salt: You may choose to lightly salt your steaks (use coarse kosher style salt) for an hour at room temperature before you start cooking. The salt will help break down even more fiber. Do not exceed one hour or you will be starting to dry the steak.
Doneness Chart: You do not want to overcook your steak so temperature is key. Your steak temperature will rise about 5 degrees after you remove it from the grill. An instant read thermometer is your best friend here.
Rare - remove from heat at 120 degrees.
Medium rare - remove from heat at 130 degrees.
The further you go past 130 degrees the dryer and less tender your steak will be so proceed with caution beyond medium rare.
Medium - remove from grill at 140 degrees Medium-Well 150 degrees Well 160 degrees
Disclaimer: I have never made Medium-Well or Well Done so I can't comment on how viable they are for Sirloin steak cut.
Sear Your Steak: Since there is not as much marbling in a sirloin cut, overcooking it will result in a tough, dry steak. Coat both sides lightly in olive oil.
You want to sear it over high heat 400-500 degrees about 3 minutes per side. For medium rare aim for an internal temperature of 125 degrees. The internal temperature is your best guide since the timing will vary with the thickness of your steak and temeprature of your grill.
I tried a reverse sear on one of the steaks and it was not quite as tender as the fast sear so for these purposes I would say forget the reverse sear when you are looking to tenderize a steak. It was also difficult to keep it from overcooking during the transition from the slow cook to final sear. And... overcooking is the enemy of tender here.
Cut Against The Grain: For a Sirloin steak this means cutting across width of the tapered end. I think this is instinctive but worth saying. This will cut across the the muscle fibers, shortening them and making them easier to chew. (The difference is substantial!)
Serving With An Herb Butter: As said earlier, Sirloin is not marbled and contains little fat. Topping with a flavoured butter is a time honoured restaurant technique that will add richness and flavour.